Tuesday, December 23, 2014

White Christmas?

Originally this blog post was meant to raise alarms about the potential for a truly devastating winter kill possibility.  Highs in the upper 40's melted a lot of snow in a very short period of time creating ponds of water in low lying areas over frozen soils just about everywhere I looked.  The typical Snow - thaw - refreeze is very hard on turf as we have witnessed over the years.  Add free standing water into the mix and you have a perfect receipt for a turf disaster come spring.  

This is what the golf course looked like on Monday December 22, 2014.  Gone are the frozen ponds of water that stood everywhere after the .65" inches of rain that melted the 8" of snow that fell in November.  (That rain would have yielded 13" of snow for the faint of heart.)

 This was the only patch of snow found on any putting surface.  I was temped to break it up and remove it but with 99.9% of the golf course free of snow it will serve as my test plot.  If this grass is the only grass alive next spring, we're in big trouble.  If that's the only grass damaged I will be a happy man if that is the only area I have to regrass next spring.  Pales in comparison to the acres of turf we've had to regrass in winters aftermath of years past.  Annual Bluegrass doesn't care that the calendar says it's the first day of winter, all it knows is the temperature is above forty, time to wake up and start growing.  If plants break dormancy then refreezes death is the likely outcome.

Snow mold is very active in unsprayed turfed areas around the course.  With all the moisture and open ground, chemical degradation of plant protectants is a real concern.  We used a three way blend of products to mitigate this possibility to some extent but Dr. Paul Koch's research at the OJ Noer Center at the University of Wisconsin has predicted half life's of several snow mold chemicals. He found chemicals degraded under snow cover but much faster when exposed to full sun.  Warm temperatures and moisture hastened the process.  Your annual donation to the Wisconsin Turfgrass Association helped Dr. Paul conduct his research.  We've always used his research as base for our snow mold control measures.

No sense losing your head in worry over winter, it's beyond our control as El Nino is in place.  But what I can do is to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and hope everyone enjoys a blessed and healthy "Happy New Year!" _Mk